The language of instruction at German universities is usually German. You therefore need to be proficient in German to study here. But German is also useful for students taking international degree programmes because it helps them cope with everyday life.
Studying in Germany – is it possible even if you can't speak German?
To enrol for a German study programme you have to provide proof that you are proficient in German.
This is different for international study programmes where classes are usually held in English. If you are only studying in Germany for one or two semesters, it is also sometimes possible to enrol without a German language certificate. Ask the university where you wish to study. But whatever the case, it is always useful to be able to speak and understand German. You can make friends more easily, settle in more quickly and have a better chance on the job market.
German tests for university admission
There are two tests you can take to prove your knowledge of German:
- TestDaF – test of German as a foreign language
- the "Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber" (DSH)
Some German universities offer the TestDaF test, others the DSH test. Both are of equal rank and are recognised at all universities.
What do you have to do in the DSH and TestDaF tests?
The DSH and TestDaF test consists of four parts: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, oral expression and written expression. Questions about academic articles and journalistic reports have to be answered. In the written part of the test, students are often required to interpret a diagram or statistics and discuss university-related topics.
The TestDaF is held six times a year at test centres in over 90 countries throughout the world and in Germany. All the details are available under TestDaF Institut.
Important! You can save a lot of time and money if you take the TestDaF test in your home country.
You can take the DSH test only at universities in Germany. In many universities this is only possible if you have already been allocated a place at university. The questions in the DSH test differ from university to university.
Information about sample tests, test dates, registration and fees is available on the TestDaF websites or from the language centre or International Office at your chosen university. The costs of the tests differ depending on country. For example, the TestDaF in Germany costs between 150 and 175 euro, in Russia or Romania 130 euro, the DSH (only possible in Germany) costs between approx. 100 and 130 euro.
You do not have to take a language test if you have passed one of the following:
- "Abitur" at a German school abroad,
- the "Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom", or the Goethe Institute's former tests "Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom" (KDS), "Großes Deutsche Sprachdiplom" (GDS) or "Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung" (ZOP)
- the "Sprachdiplom" (Level II) of the "Kultusministerkonferenz" (KMK)
- the assessment test of a Studienkolleg preparatory course.
How proficient do you have to be in German?
During your studies, you have to be able to understand difficult texts, lectures, write and express yourself on an academic level. To be able to do this, your knowledge of German needs to be on level B2/C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. This usually corresponds to 700 to 1,000 teaching hours of German - or the middle level of the TestDaF (TDN 4) and DSH (DSH-2) tests. To find out which level you need to qualify for your course or for certain subjects, contact the International Office at your chosen university. You can also find out about the language requirements of specific universities or study programmes on the language proficiency portal [www.sprachnachweis.de].
Test your German yourself!
You might be better than you think! You can find out how good your German is by doing a free online self-assessment test, which rates you on a scale from A1 to C2. For example, this is offered by the Goethe Institute and Deutsche Welle. With the free TestDaF preparatory test, you can test your chances of passing the test. And with the OnDaF test, which is subject to a charge, you can have your German level certified at test centres throughout the world.
Important! These self-test assessments are designed only to give you an idea of your proficiency, they do not replace the actual test.
How to improve your German before studying in Germany
You can prepare for the language tests in Germany in your own country. Training courses are offered for the TestDaF test at many test centres and Goethe Institutes. You can also find out about German courses on offer at your own university. DAAD lektors (senior language teachers) who work at many universities in your own country are also happy to help you find the right language course.
If you are unable to find a language course near you, try out the courses available on the Internet. Specifically to prepare you for studying in Germany, we recommend Deutsch-Uni-Online , which is free for holders of DAAD scholarships.
The eTandem portal, which networks language learning partners all over the world, is another way of learning German.
Now you know how to prepare yourself for your study programme in Germany. Under "Improve your German", we show you that learning German can also be fun.